IBM’s Watson found cancer treatments that doctors overlooked
Despite doubts from the healthcare industry, Watson recently identified a surprisingly high number of potential cancer treatments for real-life patients.
IBM's Watson is helping doctors identify treatment options for cancer patients — and it's even suggesting solutions that humans failed to see.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center had the supercomputer Watson analyze “large volumes of data," including past studies, databases, and genetic information, in an attempt to identify treatment options for 1,018 patients with “tumors with specific genetic abnormalities." The researchers then compared Watson's treatment choices with those made by a board of cancer experts.
The results were surprising. Not only did Watson confirm the 703 cases in which the expert panel identified “actionable genetic alterations," its cognitive computing discovered “potential therapeutic options" for 323 additional patients. Human doctors had not identified “recognized actionable mutations" in 96 of these patients.
"To be clear, the additional 323 cases of Watson-identified actionable alterations consisted of only eight genes that had not been considered actionable by the molecular tumor board," the report's corresponding author, William Kim, MD, an associate professor at UNC's medical school, said to the university.
Although the doctors hadn't considered those eight genes, Watson identified clinical trials for most of those patients — including one that began within a week of the computer analysis.
“Our findings, while preliminary, demonstrate that cognitive computing might have a role in identifying more therapeutic options for cancer patients," Kim said. “I can tell you that as a practicing oncologist, it's very reassuring for patients to know that we're able to explore all possible options for them in a very systematic manner."
The results are promising for the future of precision cancer care, which treats the disease by developing an individualized plan based on each patient's genetic information.
“To my knowledge, this is the first published examination of the utility of cognitive computing in precision cancer care," Kim said. “I'm optimistic that as we get more sequencing data, well-annotated treatment information, as well as therapy response, tools like Watson for Genomics will begin to show their true promise. But, of course, we still need to formally answer these questions."
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The 21st century is experiencing an Asianization of politics, business, and culture.
- Our theories about the world, even about history or the geopolitics of the present, tend to be shaped by Anglo perspectives of the Western industrial democracies, particularly those in the United States and the United Kingdom.
- The West, however, is not united. Canada, for instance, acts in many ways that are not in line with American or British policies, particularly in regard to populism. Even if it were united, though, it would not represent most of the world's population.
- European ideas, such as parliamentary democracy and civil service, spread across the world in the 19th century. In the 20th century, American values such as entrepreneurialism went global. In the 21st century, however, what we're seeing now is an Asianization — an Asian confidence that they can determine their own political systems, their own models, and adapt to their own circumstances.
Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?
- Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
- While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
- The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?
- Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
- The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
- If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
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